Two new baby ducklings (female) we ordered from McMurray Hatchery, arrived on Jan 31, now 13 days old.
When they arrived I put them in a plastic bin brooder, in our house, for the first 10 days to make sure all was well. I normally keep all baby birds in the “house brooder” for a full 4 weeks and then transfer them to a brooder inside the chicken coop for at least another 4 weeks before incorporating them in with the rest of the flock. For some unknown reason I changed the norm and put them in the brooder in the chicken coop this past Friday. Everything was fine Friday and Saturday.
Sunday morning I went out to do chicken chores and check on our new girls and was shocked to find one of the ducklings turned over on her back paddling her feet in the air! I have no idea how long she had been like this. I quickly turned her over, whereby she took a very wobbly step and went right back over on her back. I righted her once again, but this time I cupped my hands around her to hold her in place, give her some added warmth and try to calm her down. We stayed this way for several minutes. Thinking she was probably exhausted from this little ordeal I placed her in front of the water to allow her to drink, which she did. With one hand cupped around her for support I offered her some feed with the other, which she ate. After about 15 or 20 minutes she seemed to be feeling better and on shaky legs walked over to the feed dish to get more. So I figured perhaps I walked in right about the time she ended up on her back and I am probably making a mountain out of a mole hill.
I checked on her several times as I went about my usual chicken chores for the morning. By the time I finished feeding, watering and gathering eggs both ducklings were settled down together so I figured everything was okay. Throughout the day I checked on them several times as I could not get this ridiculous picture out of my head of her laying on her back paddling her little feet. All I could think about was that commercial of the elderly woman on the floor saying, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
This morning I went out to do my chicken chores and AGAIN, find this poor baby duckling on her back paddling her feet. This is not normal people! What is going on? A million thoughts are running through my mind: I put them outside too soon. There is too much pine shavings on the brooder floor making it an unstable ground to walk on. Am I putting enough Vitamins in the water? Is there something wrong with my feed? This poor duckling is so unstable on her feet it is not funny.
Okay so here are the details of the last 13 days:
Feed: I started them out on Certified Organic Chick Starter from Coyote Creek Mills for the first 10 days. Then I switched them over to Purina Start & Grow, for the last 3 days. I did this mainly because I noticed our meat chicks that are on this same feed (in a totally separate area/never been anywhere near the ducklings) all have soft-ish poop and I am having issues with pasty butt. Since I have never had this problem on Purina I am questioning the organic stuff. Additionally the “sick” duckling had pasty butt for the last 4 days she was given the organic. Three days on the Purina and I have not had to clean her butt off once.
Water: Fresh water given twice daily with added Vitamins and Electrolytes for the added niacin supplement.
Brooder Housing: First 3 days was an XL plastic tub with newspaper in the bottom, changed twice daily. Day 4-10, same tub with about 1/2 inch of pine shaving in the bottom, cleaned out as necessary. Last 3 days in 2 X 4 brooder pen inside chicken coop with about 2 inches of pineshaving, water, feed and a brooder light on one end for warmth. As of this writing have moved them back into the house into a makeshift 3 X 3 foot pen with doggie pads on the floor, those I have covered with that rubber drawer lining stuff so they can have secure footing. I also have a box with pine shavings if they choose to get in there and sleep. The pen is 1 1/2 feet up off of the floor and sits about 3 feet from a space heater (no central here) so it is nice and toasty warm (but not too hot).
Weather: The last 3 days the outside weather has been cold and rainy with day time temps averaging about 65 and nightime lows about 45. Although the ducklings have been inside a brooder pen, inside the chicken coop (which is a 15 X 17 converted horse stall), with a brooder light for warmth, yes it probably got drafty at night and yes I am kicking myself right about now.
I caved this morning and took both ducklings to the Vet. Since I have no idea what is wrong with the “sick” duckling I have no idea how to treat. Here are their stats from the Vet:
Duckling to the left of the picture holding her head up: This is the duckling that “I thought” was well/okay. temp was 105.4, weight 540 grams, Vet said he could hear scratchy sounds in her upper air sacks, which he also said was where her lungs were located, lower air sacks sound clear.
Duckling to the right of the photo with her head down: This is the duckling that keeps ending up on her back and has really wobbly legs. temp was 105.2, weight 342 grams, air sacks sounded clear, poop sample showed no intestinal worms.
Since he really can’t find anything wrong other than the scratchy sounding air sacks in the larger duckling he felt we were dealing with an upper respiratory thing so he prescribed .25 oral Baytril to be given twice daily for 1 week. Come back if they don’t get better or if anything else happens.
Okay so we have an antibiotic and I’m all good with that. The only reason I brought the “well” duckling with me was I was afraid the “sick” duckling had something that might be contagious and wanted to make sure they both got treated. I wasn’t expecting such a big difference in weight either, I mean the “well” duckling weighs a whopping 540 grams and the “sick” duckling weighs 342 grams. That’s a difference of 202 grams and these two ducks were born on the same exact day.
Anybody out there have an opinion, thoughts, suggestions, advice, ever have this same thing happen?